There’s a lot to like about Osaka. The great food, the energetic nightlife, the friendly and entertaining demeanor of the locals. However, if you had to single out one particular attraction that draws more visitors, both foreign and domestic into the city than any other, it would be Universal Studios Japan in the city’s Konohana Ward.
Originally opened in 2001, Universal Studios Japan is one of six such theme parks around the world to carry the Universal branding.
The park is, as one would expect, a showcase for all the characters and movie franchises in the Universal family. The likes of The Terminator, Jurassic Park, Spiderman, Jaws and Harry Potter all have rides and indeed entire sections of the park dedicated to them.
For younger visitors, the Universal Funland section of the park (opened in 2012) offers rides, shows and experiences featuring characters aimed at a younger audience. The likes of Snoopy, Sesame Street and Hello Kitty all feature prominently.
In addition to all this, Universal Studios also offers a number of seasonal events throughout the year. A visit to the park during Halloween season is a must for all lovers of all things ghoulish and the fear-inducing.
In the run up to Halloween, the park stays open a little later into the evening and becomes over run with Zombies. When I say over run I mean that these monsters will literally chase after you as you make your way around the park.
The undoubted highlight of Halloween at Universal Studios however is the Resident Evil experience.
Based on the 25 year old video game and movie franchise The Biohazard (the Japanese name for Resident Evil) Experience sees you and your friends trapped in an “escape room” type experience, as you make your way through the doomed Raccoon City, desperately trying to avoid zombies, lickers, environmental hazards and even the ultimate bioweapon himself, the dreaded Tyrant!
Like many other such experiences, Biohazard is a timed experience. You will be given a timer which counts the viral load in your body. If you don’t escape before the virus reaches 100%, you will become a zombie and lose the game.
If you’re looking for something a little less intense and perhaps a bit more romantic, then maybe you would be better off visiting Universal Studios during the Christmas season.
From mid-November until Christmas Eve the park becomes a winter wonderland. Christmas themed rides, regular parades throughout the day with a host of the park’s characters in seasonal costumes, and then there’s the Christmas tree.
This isn’t just any old Christmas tree, this one is visible from miles away, In fact, back in 2011 The Guinness Book of World Records officially recognized Universal Studio’s Japan’s Christmas tree as the most luminous in the world with almost a quarter of a million lights!
As far as theme parks go, Universal Studios is a little on the expensive side, but well worth it in my opinion. A one day pass starts at 7,400 yen for adults and 5,100 yen for children.
If you can get there early enough I highly recommend investing the additional 4,000 yen per person for a fast pass. This is a book of vouchers that will give you priority seating on a selection of the rides, seriously cutting down your waiting times.
This is especially useful if you’re bringing your family with you, after all we all know that kids aren’t exactly the most patient of creatures!
Many visitors to Universal Studios opt to combine their visit to the park with a stay at one of the 5 hotels either on site or right next to the park. These hotels are a bit pricier than elsewhere in the city, but again if you’ve got kids with you, there’s nothing like a view of the park from your hotel room to add a little extra magic to the experience
Outside the park you will also find a wide selection of American themed restaurants. The Hard Rock Café is perhaps the most famous of these, but you’ll also find other well-known brands such as the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company.
My personal favorite is Finnegan’s which in addition to an excellent selection of Irish and American dishes also does the best pint of Guinness in Osaka!
To reach Universal Studios you can take the train which runs twice hourly directly from Osaka Station to Sakurajima.
However, I recommend another approach.
Instead, head over to Osakako, on the subway’s Chuo Line. From there, walk west from the station for about 5 minutes to come to Osaka Aquarium.
At the rear of the Osaka Aquarium, you will find the Tempozan Ferry, which allows you to sail over the river from Minato Ward to Konohana Ward and arrive in Universal Studios in style!